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Utilities Starting To Worry About Power Demand, Urge Conservation

Thursday Figures To Be Worse, So Cut Back On Electricity Where You Can

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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Air conditioners have been working overtime this week to keep homes cool during the Tri-State Area’s latest blistering heat wave, but all that power is putting major stress on the grid.

Officials say the equipment is showing a strain. The folks who run our local utilities said Wednesday the situation is slowly getting worse.

“It’s a cumulative effect on the system in terms of hot day, hot day, hot day and then we’re not getting cooling off at night,” Mike Donovan of Orange and Rockland Utilities told CBS 2’s Lou Young.

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C.J. Rodriguez is a lineman at Orange and Rockland in the northern suburbs.

“Right now it’s just a bit crazy, a lot of transformers popping, a lot of wires melting because of the amount of load that’s on the wires,” Rodriguez said.

And it isn’t getting better. A record load could be coming for the entire area, officials said.

“We expect that tomorrow is going to be a tough day for us,” Donovan said.

That’s alarming news for people like Maxine Garland, who just needs enough electricity to run some fans in the only place she has to go.

When reminded how oppressive the condition were on Wednesday, the Mount Vernon resident said, “Yes, it is, but I have two fans. I have this one on and I have the one in the kitchen. Oh yes, I don’t think I could breath,” Garland said.

Keeping the juice on for people like Garland might require some adjustments for the rest of us, like moving the thermostat up on big energy users like the refrigerator and the air conditioning. Even turning off your computer can help a little. Many appliances draw power when we’re not using them. A computer on standby-or “sleeping” consumes 6 watts of electricity. Officials say there’s no harm in turning it off. A flat screen TV drinks 5 to 10 watts even when not running. There’s only one way to stop that.

“You have to unplug it,” said Ross Randinelli of Tele-Rama.

The operators of the New England power grid have asked for voluntary conservation.

With demand not expected to peak for another day, officials with ISO New England said they were carefully monitoring the situation.

ISO New England spokesperson Ellen Foley said in a heat wave like this one, demand keeps building day by day.

“Right now, we’re looking to hit our peak for the week and it would be the peak for the year this Thursday,” Foley told WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau.

The all-time record for demand was in 2006 when power use hit just more than 28,000 megawatts, Schneidau reported.

Voluntary conservation is the first step, but Foley said if demand continues to run high, control room operators could cut the voltage.

That only happens, Foley said, when surplus runs to zero. Before that action would take effect, an urgent appeal would go out to customers to cut back their power use.

Con Edison has activated its 24/7 command center to keep the power flowing through the five boroughs and Westchester County.

PSE&G and LIPA said they have extra workers on hand to handle any power outages that may occur.

All area utilities have asked customers to conserve energy where possible.

The National Weather Service says relief in the form of showers and thunderstorms is expected later Saturday. Cooler temperatures are expected to arrive on Sunday.

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